Category Archives: Health

Clean Rivers after Tuesday blip and before Thursday rains 2021-07-01

Update 2021-07-06: Bad Upstream, Withlacoochee River 2021-07-02.

The Little, Withlacoochee, and Alapaha Rivers are remarkably clean by samples Thursday, July 1, 2021. No sewage spills have been reported for Georgia.

Some bad news: something caused high E. coli in the Withlacoochee River at GA 133 on Tuesday. And Starke, Florida, had two more small spills above the Santa Fe River, but nothing like the big one that Florida city had a week ago.

The good news: according to those Tuesday tests, whatever was in the Withlacoochee River at GA 133 was not coming from Valdosta’s Mulch Yard off of Val-Tech Road. And by Thursday samples, whatever it was was gone by then.

So by the results we have right now, it’s clear for swimming, diving, fishing, and boating.

And still more good news: Madison Health has lifted its former Bacterial Advisory for the Withlacoochee River.

But beware: many inches of rain fell later Thursday and today. That usually washes more contamination into the rivers. See Cattle and hogs: Withlacoochee River water quality status 2021-06-27 https://wwals.net/?p=55966

[Chart, rivers, results, Swim Guide]
Chart, rivers, results, Swim Guide

Just don’t say we didn’t mention those rains yesterday and today, which in Brooks County started even earlier, and have been very heavy. If we’re all lucky, most of what manure would wash off has already washed off. We shall see.

With a dozen tests this week, we’re burning through testing materials. Thanks to Joe Brownlee, Southwest Director, Georgia Power, for another generous water quality testing grant that helps make this possible. Continue reading

Health Advisory, Withlacoochee River, bad at GA-FL line after rains 2021-06-22

Update 2021-06-25 Filthy at Knights Ferry, Withlacoochee River 2021-06-24.

Unfortunately as expected, the recent rains have washed Fecal coliform and E. coli into the Withlacoochee River. The Madison County, Florida, Health Department has issued an advisory of possible bacterial contamination. I wouldn’t want to get that river water on me until better results are seen. It’s most likely both upstream and downstream of the one datapoint Madison Health collected, which is for the GA-FL line. Better wait a few days before swimming, fishing, or boating on the Withlacoochee River.

[Bacterial Advisory, TNTC and 800 cfu/100 mL, Red State Line on Swim Guide]
Bacterial Advisory, TNTC and 800 cfu/100 mL, Red State Line on Swim Guide

The contamination most likely comes from the usual source: cattle manure, mostly washing off of open pastures in Brooks County, Georgia, down Okapilco Creek.

But we do not really know, because the only data we have for this week is the one report by Madison Health for yesterday, Tuesday, June 22, 2021. We only know that much because Madison County Chairman Donnie Waldrep Sr. posted it on his facebook page. It does not yet appear on the public web page of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

The most recent data we have for Valdosta is from last week, before the rains, and only for US 41, GA 133, and US 84, all upstream of where Okapilco Creek enters the Withlacoochee River. The last downstream data Valdosta has published is for two weeks ago, Monday, June 7, 2021.

I hear Valdosta wants people downstream in Florida to understand that recent contamination is not coming from Valdosta. Well, timely publishing that downstream data would help with that.

Not publishing that data until weeks later could give the impression that Valdosta does not care about people downstream. Continue reading

Health alert for Withlacoochee River 2021-04-27

Update 2021-04-30: Much cleaner: Withlacoochee River 2021-04-29.

Received 4:17 PM yesterday, April 28, 2021: “The Florida Department of Health in Hamilton and Madison counties have issued a health alert for the Withlacoochee River, April 28, 2021.”

[Bad State Line to FL 6, Swim Guide red, Health alert]
Bad State Line to FL 6, Swim Guide red, Health alert

That was after FDEP published the Madison Health downstream results for Tuesday, which, while not as bad as the WWALS results for Monday, were still above the 410 colony-forming units per 100 mililiter (cfu/100 mL) limit for of E. coli in a single sample.

The cause? Very likely agriculture, as in cattle manure, maybe horses, likely some wild hogs, plus cats, dogs, chickens, deer, and sheep. No, it’s almost certainly not the tiny and mostly-vacuumed Valdosta FOG Manhole sewage spill of Monday. Don’t be surprised if spills from elsewhere start showing up last on the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report. But those still probably won’t be the main problem, given how widespread the contamination is.

The good news is still that Continue reading

Bad upstream, too: Withlacoochee River water quality 2021-04-26

Update 2021-04-29: Health alert for Withlacoochee River 2021-04-27.

Valdosta results for Monday are just as bad upstream as the WWALS downstream results.

So indeed it’s best to stay off the Withlacoochee River for a few days, with bacterial counts this high for April 26, 2021. This is not a good time for boating, fishing, or swimming in the river.

The worse news is that since the Withlacoochee River was contaminated Monday at least as far upstream as US 41, that mess will keep running downstream for probably a day or so, as in it’s probably in Florida today.

The good news is that it’s not nearly as bad as a year ago under similar conditions.

[Bad upstream, water quality results and Swim Guide]
Bad upstream, water quality results and Swim Guide

Thanks to Valdosta PIO Ashlyn Johnson for posting the Valdosta results.

We are still waiting for Madison Health’s downstream results from Tuesday.

One of our WWALS testers also drew a farther downstream sample today.

Until those or later tests show clear, better safe than sorry.

This time it can’t be just cattle manure coming down Okapilco Creek out of Brooks County, Georgia, because all three of Valdosta’s Monday results are for upstream of there. But there is a dairy and a hog farm on the Withlacoochee River upstream of Lowndes County, and at least three horse farms near the river in Lowndes County, plus many cats, dogs, chickens, deer, and septic tanks. Some of their manure was no doubt washed into the creeks and rivers by the Saturday rain. I also won’t be surprised if in a few days we start seeing sewage late reports on the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report.

This contamination is almost certainly not from the tiny FOG spill Valdosta had Friday. That one wasn’t anywhere near big enough, and US 41 is upstream of Sugar Creek, anyway. Continue reading

Very bad water quality: Withlacoochee River 2021-04-26

Update 2021-04-28: Bad upstream, too: Withlacoochee River water quality 2021-04-26.

It’s best to stay off the Withlacoochee River for a few days, with bacterial counts this high in the samples WWALS testers Michael and Jacob Bachrach took yesterday (Monday). This is not a good time for boating, fishing, or swimming in the river.

[Bad results, Petrifilms, River, Swim Guide]
Bad results, Petrifilms, River, Swim Guide

Probably Madison Health tested today, and we may see results via FDEP tomorrow. But at least until then, better safe than sorry.

This river contamination is most likely the usual cattle manure (and plus some wild hog manure) washed into the creeks and rivers by the Saturday rain. It is almost certainly not from the tiny FOG spill Valdosta had Friday. Continue reading

Spring Reschedule: Adams Tract River Camping, Suwannee River, Hardenbergh Boat Ramp, 2021-04-10

All the river camps are closed due to high water for the Spring Equinox weekend, so we are rescheduling the Adams Tract Camping paddle for Saturday and Sunday 10-11 April, 2021.

Join us for our first spring paddle, on the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail in Florida!

We will paddle 8 miles on the Suwannee River the first day, and 10 miles on the second day, after camping at Adams Tract River Camp. There are many springs along the way.

We will check temperatures with an infrared thermometer, and everyone will be expected to keep their distance from people not in their party, and to wear masks when closer than six feet. Self shuttle if you can (have a close friend or relative shuttle you), or join the team shuttle from the takeout back to the put-in; see below.

To be sure you have a spot at the camp, please say you’re going on the meetup.
https://www.meetup.com/Withlacoochee-Alapaha-Suwannee-RIvers-WWALS-Outings/events/276407283/
River Camp platforms are available on first-come first-serve basis, so plan for primitive camping.

When:
Gather 9:30 AM, launch 11 AM, end overnight, Saturday, April 10, 2021
Gather 8 AM, launch 9 AM, end 2 PM, Sunday, April 11, 2021

Put In: Hardenbergh Boat Ramp. From Mayo, travel east on US 27 to NE CR 361; turn left; travel north to NE CR 354; cross over to NE Pecan Avenue; turn right on NE River Road and follow to the boat ramp, in Lafayette County.

GPS: 30.0903, -83.111903

Take Out: Ivey Memorial Park Ramp, in Branford on the south side of US 27 at the Bridge in Ivey Memorial Park, in Suwannee County.

Bring: the usual personal flotation device, boat, paddles, food, drinking water, warm clothes, and first aid kit. Also trash pickers and trash bags: every WWALS outing is also a cleanup.

Free: This outing is free to WWALS members, and $10 (ten dollars) for non-members. You can pay the $10 at the outing, or online:
https://wwals.net//donations/#outings

We recommend you support the work of WWALS by becoming a WWALS member today!
https://wwals.net/donations/#join

Event: facebook, meetup

[Adams Tract River Camp, Spring lily, map, Suwannee River Wilderness Trail]
Adams Tract River Camp, Spring lily, map, Suwannee River Wilderness Trail

Continue reading

Florida needs water quality testing and sign posting

Florida needs to test our rivers all the way to the Gulf, several times every week, instead of depending on Madison County and the city of Valdosta and WWALS.

Jim Tatum caught me and Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson collaborating, probably about getting FDEP to do the DNA marker and chemical tracer tests that have been instrumental in showing most of the recent Withlacoochee River contamination has come from ruminants, of which the most numerous are cattle.

Photo: Jim Tatum, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman and OSFR Founder Merillee Malwitz-Jipson
Photo: Jim Tatum

Calusa Riverkeeper John Cassani knows I bring up the need for statewide Florida testing at almost every weekly Waterkeepers Florida meeting, after he mentions testing where he is.

Jim Tatum, Our Santa Fe River, Guest opinion: Floridians have the right to know if our waters are safe, Continue reading

Equinox Reschedule: Adams Tract River Camping, Suwannee River, Hardenbergh Boat Ramp, 2021-03-20

Update 2021-03-19: All the river camps are closed due to high water for the Spring Equinox weekend, so we are rescheduling the Adams Tract Camping paddle for Saturday and Sunday 10-11 April, 2021.

Update 2021-03-17: All the River Camps on the Suwannee River are closed due to high water, with more rain expected tomorrow (Thursday). Unless the River Camps open up by 3pm Friday, we will reschedule the Adams Tract Camping paddle for Saturday and Sunday 10-11 April, 2011. Everyone please stay tuned.

Update 2021-03-16: To be sure you have a spot at the camp, please say you’re going on the meetup.

Due to high water, we have rescheduled to the Spring Equinox! Help us welcome in Spring on the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail in Florida.

We will paddle 8 miles on the Suwannee River the first day, and 10 miles on the second day, after camping at Adams Tract River Camp. There are many springs along the way.

[Adams Tract River Camp, map, Suwannee River Wilderness Trail]
Adams Tract River Camp, map, Suwannee River Wilderness Trail

We will check temperatures with an infrared thermometer, and everyone will be expected to keep their distance from people not in their party, and to wear masks when closer than six feet. Self shuttle if you can (have a close friend or relative shuttle you), or join the team shuttle from the takeout back to the put-in; see below.

River Camp platforms are available on first-come first-serve basis so, plan for primitive camping.

When:
Gather 9:30 AM, launch 11 AM, end overnight, Saturday, March 20, 2021, which is the Spring Equinox
Gather 8 AM, launch 9 AM, end 2 PM, Sunday, March 21, 2021

[Spring Equinox --TimeandDate.com]
Spring Equinox, https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/spring-equinox.html

Put In: Hardenbergh Boat Ramp. From Mayo, travel east on US 27 to NE CR 361; turn left; travel north to NE CR 354; cross over to NE Pecan Avenue; turn right on NE River Road and follow to the boat ramp, in Lafayette County.

GPS: 30.0903, -83.111903

Take Out: Ivey Memorial Park Ramp, in Branford on the south side of US 27 at the Bridge in Ivey Memorial Park, in Suwannee County.

Bring: primitive camping gear, the usual personal flotation device, boat, paddles, food, drinking water, warm clothes, and first aid kit. Also trash pickers and trash bags: every WWALS outing is also a cleanup.

Free: This outing is free to WWALS members, and $10 (ten dollars) for non-members. You can pay the $10 at the outing, or online:
https://wwals.net//donations/#outings

We recommend you support the work of WWALS by becoming a WWALS member today!
https://wwals.net/donations/#join

Event: facebook, meetup Continue reading

Adams Tract River Camping, Suwannee River, Hardenbergh Boat Ramp, 2021-03-06

Update 2021-03-19: All the river camps are closed due to high water for the Spring Equinox weekend, so we are rescheduling the Adams Tract Camping paddle for Saturday and Sunday 10-11 April, 2021.

Update 2021-03-01: Rescheduled to the Spring Equinox, March 20, 2021.

Join us for pre-spring on the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail in Florida! We will paddle 8 miles on the Suwannee River the first day, and 10 miles on the second day, after camping at Adams Tract River Camp. There are many springs along the way.

We will check temperatures with an infrared thermometer, and everyone will be expected to keep their distance from people not in their party, and to wear masks when closer than six feet. Self shuttle if you can (have a close friend or relative shuttle you), or join the team shuttle from the takeout back to the put-in; see below.

River Camp platforms are available on first-come first-serve basis so, plan for primitive camping.

When:
Gather 9:30 AM, launch 11 AM, end overnight, Saturday, March 6, 2021
Gather 8 AM, launch 9 AM, end 2 PM, Sunday, March 7, 2021

Put In: Hardenbergh Boat Ramp. From Mayo, travel east on US 27 to NE CR 361; turn left; travel north to NE CR 354; cross over to NE Pecan Avenue; turn right on NE River Road and follow to the boat ramp, in Lafayette County.

GPS: 30.0903, -83.111903

Take Out: Ivey Memorial Park Ramp, in Branford on the south side of US 27 at the Bridge in Ivey Memorial Park, in Suwannee County.

Bring: primitive camping gear, the usual personal flotation device, boat, paddles, food, drinking water, warm clothes, and first aid kit. Also trash pickers and trash bags: every WWALS outing is also a cleanup.

Free: This outing is free to WWALS members, and $10 (ten dollars) for non-members. You can pay the $10 at the outing, or online:
https://wwals.net//donations/#outings

We recommend you support the work of WWALS by becoming a WWALS member today!
https://wwals.net/donations/#join

Event: facebook, meetup

[Adams Tract River Camp, map, Suwannee River Wilderness Trail]
Adams Tract River Camp, map, Suwannee River Wilderness Trail

Continue reading

Petition to EPA: protect from radioactive phosphogypsum stacks

Many groups in many states yesterday petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve federal oversight of radioactive waste and wastewater from phosphogypsum stacks.

“WWALS opposes expansion of the decades-old moonscape of a phosphate mine in Hamilton County, and another proposed in Union and Bradford Counties,” said John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper. “These mines not only suck up massive amounts of water that reduce spring and river flows, they feed ever-growing phosphogypsum stacks with radioactive waste.”

PCS Phosphate Mine, 2016-10-22, WWALS Southwings flight
PCS Phosphate Mine 2016-10-22, Southwings flight for WWALS, pictures by Jim Tatum, https://wwals.net/?p=32043


For Immediate Release, February 8, 2021 Continue reading